Florida schools will no longer ask student-athletes to share their menstrual histories in order to play high school sports, following months of opposition from parents, physicians and advocates.
On Thursday, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted 14-2 at an emergency meeting to adopt a proposal that removes questions about a student-athlete’s menstrual history from the state’s pre-participation physical evaluation form.
Until now, the form included five optional questions about a student-athlete’s menstrual history.
The issue became the subject of controversy after the athletic association’s sports medicine committee last month recommended the questions be mandatory, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Some parents and critics argued that requesting menstrual information from students and storing it digitally would violate their privacy — particularly at a time of increased debate and concern over regulations relating to women’s bodies following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Other opponents feared the questions could be used to target trans and nonbinary athletes playing on teams that align with their gender identities.
Now, however, the newly adopted form will not ask student-athletes about menstruation, instead requiring them to fill out questions about their medical, surgical and emotional histories. Those pages will be kept by a health care provider, parent or guardian — not the school.
One page detailing a student’s medical eligibility to play sports — also without questions about menstruation — will then be completed by the student-athlete or their parent or guardian and submitted to the school.
That page can also be filled out by a health care provider if a student-athlete gets referred for additional medical evaluation prior to receiving clearance to play sports.
The new rules follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for physical evaluation forms for student-athletes, which state that a medical eligibility form is the only one that needs to be shared with schools.
At least 44 states currently require or optionally ask student-athletes about their menstruation, according to an analysis conducted by LGBTQ sports news site Outsports.
Florida’s new policy, according to the athletic association board, is intended “to provide an updated PPE form which protects a student-athlete’s privacy while including pertinent medical information a health care provider at a member school would need access to.”
Ahead of the vote on Thursday, an athletic association official read emails the organization had received from the public urging the removal of menstruation-related questions. Some argued the questions were “intrusive” and constituted a “breach of privacy.” More than two dozen members of the Florida House of Representatives also submitted a letter to the board asking why it was necessary to ask student-athletes about their menstrual history, according to a document obtained by The Palm Beach Post.
Some public comments were hostile to board members, suggesting they wanted to surveil young women’s menstruation or prevent some students’ participation in sports.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth, that we’re trying to curtain girls’ participation in schools,” said board member John Gerdes, who noted that 129,000 girls participated in high school athletics in the state last year. (The organization did not provide statistics on transgender and nonbinary people’s participation in high school sports in Florida.)
Several board members said they did not want their own daughters, who are student-athletes, to have to share their menstrual histories on the forms.
Physicians say that while menstrual history provides important insight for doctors — including, for example, a patient’s risk of the female athlete triad, a disorder that can lead to reproductive, bone and cardiovascular issues — it is unnecessary for schools to collect such information.
“Having menstrual history is very important — whether it’s very important that it’s included in that form is a different question,” Dr. Thresia Gambon, president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, previously told NBC News.
Jenn Meale Poggie, a Florida mother of three daughters, said she was happy with Thursday’s decision, characterizing the questions about menstrual history as “a complete violation of privacy.”